1645 Death of Aemilia Lanier

Nicholas_Hilliard_010Aemilia Lanyer is exceptional for her period (honestly, she is exceptional for any period), so in that sense she doesn’t serve as a good example of “typical” output from the period.

Lanier was born Aemilia Bassano in 1569 to a musician of Elizabeth I’s court who was himself of Italian extraction. This meant that she was raised on the fringes of the royal court and throughout her life she maintained connections with those in the highest realms of power. She married Alfonso Lanyer (or Lanier), another court musician, after having had an affair with the Lord Chamberlain to Elizabeth, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon.

At some point in the later part of the first decade of the 1600s, though prior to 1611, she visited Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland at her home at Cookham Dean. Clifford was an intensely pious woman who Lanier praised throughout her poems. The meeting seems to have resulted in a kind of spiritual awakening in Lanier, whose major work, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (Hail, God, King of the Jews), is both dedicated to Clifford and which ends with a the first “country house” poem published in English, “Description of Cooke-ham.” The Countess was a fervent reformist Anglican, who served as patron to a number of more Puritan minded preachers.

Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum was published in 1611 and was explicit about its engagement with literary and devotional coteries that were all-female groups. That is, this was not a text written for a “public,” where that public was understood to be gendered male. It was for women – literally. The dedications alone were given to the most powerful women in the land – the queen, the princess Elizabeth, “To all virutous ladies,” the Countess of Bedford, the Countess of Dorset, and finally the Countess of Cumberland. This was a statement for women, about women’s devotion, and a woman’s sense of God in the world. That said, it was a book published by two men (Valentine Simmes and Richard Bonnian) and sold at the heart of the London bookselling industry – St. Paul’s churchyard.

It is often claimed that Salve Deus… is the first example of a woman writing a book of poetry in English as a professional poet or someone who made money from their poetry. This is a bit contentious. The same kind of statement has also been made about Isabella Whitney, who in the late 1560s and early 1570s, put out a series of pamphlets and poetic texts from which she made money. One can even argue that the prayer books and devotional literature of Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s queens, were an example of poetic writing, though she was by no means a “professional poet” – whatever that means.

Now, you may have heard that Lanyer is one of the primary candidates for “The Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Indeed, it was only in 1993 that the whole of Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum was published on its own without any reference to the possibility of her being Shakespeare’s inspiration. You may even have heard some of the more obscure theories that she wrote Shakespeare. (Apparently everyone wrote Shakespeare but Shakespeare.) These rumours are, at best, rumours and, at worst, they seriously detract from the artistic value of her own work.  As Lorna Hutson puts it in Lanyer’s Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry:

Although there is insufficient evidence to establish the identification it illustrates a tendency that, interestingly, her own poetry strives to overcome—that is, the tendency to read a woman’s emergence into the sphere of public discourse as a form of indecency, signalling promiscuity. The central poem of her volume, which celebrates the ‘worthy mind’ of her patron Margaret, dowager countess of Cumberland, is remarkable for managing to avoid identifying female virtue with chastity, articulating in its place a feminine mastery of those dialectical skills that constituted the humanist ideal of masculine virtue.

As Lanyer’s early life was relatively scandalous (an affair with Lord Hunsdon and a visit to a necromancer among other things), scholars even in a post-second wave feminist world tend to read her work in light of her relationship to chastity. I want you to question this tradition of interpretation and instead see her work in light of her reworking of the story of Eve. Rather than providing a psychodrama of Lanyer’s own life, which is far too easy to dismiss, I want you to think of the excerpt from your text as a philosophical or theological statement.


I Don’t Want to Be Your Friend (Unless I Do): Emotional Labour in University Teaching

Some friends of mine do a podcast called Witch Please, about the world of Harry Potter. They are scholars out of the University of Alberta and much of what they end up talking about it related to teaching and pedagogy at Hogwarts. I often completely agree with them (for instance, that Hufflepuff is the only house that really values education); I often completely disagree with them (honestly, I may be a monster, but Cedric Diggory’s death was just SO contrived). Nevertheless, they have recently been talking about emotional labour in their podcasts and somehow it has got into the back of my head.

Seriously, go check it out.  I’ll wait.

Emotional labour is one of those feminist issues that I’ve never really dug into before. No real reason I guess, just never really thought too much about it. Over the past few weeks, however, I’ve been thinking a lot about assessment, universal course design, students with disabilities, and my increasing sense of frustration and exhaustion and I’m wondering if the concept of emotional labour might help me to articulate what it is I’m feeling regarding teaching.

“That is, when a professor’s ability to assess a student’s capacity to participate in the discourse or discipline is removed or hindered by the administration in a misguided (mis-)application of universal instruction design — in other words, passing a student because the student will be emotionally traumatized by failure — the course ceases to be about participating in a discourse or discipline and becomes instead infantilizing, othering, and disenfranchising.”

In some of the studies I’ve been reading regarding education and working with students with learning disabilities, I’m not surprised to see that students who feel that their instructor is empathetic and approachable end up doing better. For instance, 

  • Ouellett (“Faculty Development and Universal Instruction Design” in Equity and Excellence in Education 2004) notes that there are many advantages to profs knowing their students, not least of which is tailoring appropriate supports to students who may need extra help.
  • Rose and Meyer (Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age 2002) argue that “affective networks” are necessary for engaging and motivating students, especially students with disabilities. Getting to know your students allows you to communicate your passion for the material and thereby motivate them to do well.
  • Another study (Elacqua et al Perceptions of Classroom Accommodations Among College Students with Disabilities 1996) came to the somewhat unsurprising conclusion that, for students with disabilities, the experience of asking for accommodations can be stressful. Such stress is reduced when students feel that the professor is empathetic and supportive.

I know, none of this is terribly surprising to me, either. Teaching is a very personal thing, predicated on individual relationships that sometimes last an entire lifetime. 

There’s a big distinction in my mind (at least at the moment) regarding setting up a classroom in which everyone is respected and reasonable accommodations are met for a wide range of disabilities and setting up a classroom in which the professor is asked tacitly or explicitly to take on the emotional labour of the students. I worry that the latter is the conclusion that some university and school board administrations are coming to from studies like the ones I just quoted (and others). That is, when a professor’s ability to assess a student’s capacity to participate in the discourse or discipline is removed or hindered by the administration in a misguided (mis-)application of universal instruction design — in other words, passing a student because the student will be emotionally traumatized by failure — the course ceases to be about participating in a discourse or discipline and becomes instead infantilizing, othering, and disenfranchising.

Students with strong social networks and well-developed relationships with professors will tend to do better in classes, this is true. It’s one of the reasons why I give my students access to my Facebook, my Twitter, my YouTube, and whatever other social media I belong to. I want students to use me as a resource. If you want to learn about Shakespeare or poetry or theatre or what have you… I’m here to help!

That said, I can’t be anyone’s friend while they are my student.  Obviously. 

Montaigne probably put it best. One cannot be friends with someone who has power over you because you will always be beholden unto that person. Students want something from professors – to pass the course. It is perverse to demand both a hierarchical organization of power and a distributed organization at the same time about the same topic. It’s not that professors are like princes were to Montaigne – better than their subjects. It’s that when it comes to the particular topic at hand (for me, Shakespeare), the professor is the expert in the discipline who is judging the student’s capacity to participate in that discourse. Yes, I’m always judging you. That’s my job.

Further, I maintain the right to choose my friends based on my own personal inclinations and desires. I don`t think anyone will judge me too harshly for keeping that right to myself.  Friends do emotional labour for other friends. We cry on each other`s shoulders and we get drunk with each other when one of us goes through a break up. It`s a labour that is unpaid, that is shitty, that is hard, and it is incredibly difficult. You can`t pay people enough for genuine emotional labour. It has to come from a choice.

In the attempt to set up a classroom that is empathetic and supportive, I worry that it is too easy for those terms to slip over into emotional labour. It isn’t always the case, but it can certainly happen that administrators and even professors themselves can start to see themselves more as the student’s advocate and friend than as the person who is assessing them. A professor can be a part of a student`s “affective network” – but only so much. At some point we have to step back. We have to assess them, after all. We have to say, “Yes, you have mastered this discourse,” or “No, you have not the skill yet.” 

This is further complicated by the fact that, for many students, failure to master the material in a course or to satisfactorily participate in a discourse represents a statement about their personal self-worth as a human being. Obviously this too is not true. I mean, I’m only telling a student that they did poorly in Shakespeare – I have no idea if they are a decent human being or not!

“Friends do emotional labour for other friends. We cry on each other`s shoulders and we get drunk with each other when one of us goes through a break up. It`s a labour that is unpaid, that is shitty, that is hard, and it is incredibly difficult. You can`t pay people enough for genuine emotional labour. It has to come from a choice.”

Nevertheless, I worry that the 20+ years of educational theory’s focus on changing the role of the professor away from the “sage on the stage” and towards being a part of an “affective network” can be (mis-)understood as being the role of the professor to be the friend of the student as the student sees their academic worth as being inexorably tied to their self-worth as a person. Friends worry about friends’ self-worth as persons. As a professor, I’m only paid to worry about a student’s capacity to participate in a discourse. To ask more of me is to ask me to engage in emotional labour for free.

It’s something of a two-pronged problem. On the one hand, students are brought up with an expectation of their own academic sufficiency such that failure to navigate the terms of a discipline is met with overwhelming emotional distress — just look at the droves of students who are being treated for anxiety disorders.  On the other hand professors are being encouraged to take on a culturally feminized position of caregiver and friend, while not being compensated for the emotional labour that position entails.

Please note, I’m not of the Snape school of pedagogy. I’m not saying that the other role that is available to teachers is to start humiliating our students and belittling them, like Snape does to Harry Potter. Rather, what I think I am saying is that we have to, of course, 

  1. create syllabi that are universal in design; 
  2. help our students to recognize that failure is always an option and that doesn’t mean the end of the world, and; 
  3. protect ourselves from being forced into emotional labour that we don’t want to do, in the name of a job that doesn’t repay us for such labour.

In the end, I’ve made friends with many of my former students. Some are quite close friends now (though I haven’t cried on any of their shoulders, that may say more about my propensity to cry in general). That said, I like to think we chose our friendship, rather than having such a relationship forced upon us by the mandarins of educational theory.

I don’t know – maybe I’m just sour at the moment. I’m certainly open to having my mind changed. What do you think? Am I just being a privileged, white, male prick/Snape-wannabe? Or am I missing something altogether from my reading of the problem? Please let me know in the comments.

Call for Volunteers, Raise the Bar Executive Committee

As many of you may know, I am helping put together a group called “Raise the Bar.”  We are having an executive committee call for volunteers soon.  If you are interested, please contact me at andrew(at)raisethebarguelph(dot)ca.  
For further information, please read on!

Raise the Bar
Executive Committee Call for Volunteers
Raise the Bar began in the summer of 2012 as an attempt to raise awareness of bystander intervention techniques to help end sexual harassment and sexual violence in downtown Guelph clubs and bars.
Raise the Bar is working on a program to ask downtown bars and nightclubs to take an education session that will teach owners and staff how to recognize behavior that’s sexually coercive, how to intervene when they see it, how to support people who experience it and, hopefully, how they can deter incidents of sexual violence. In order to change cultural norms, there has to be incentive for change, and as such, we propose to “reward” bars and clubs that complete training sessions and with a symbol to put in their windows (the Raise the Bar logo) that will identify their business as one in a network that has made a commitment to creating violence-free, sex-positive space.
We’ve been partnering with/supported by some amazing community and campus groups such as the Guelph Wellington Women in Crisis Centre, the Guelph-Wellington Care and Treatment Centre for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, the Crown Attorney’s Office, the Canadian Federation of University Women, OPIRG, and University of Guelph support groups such as the Health and Wellness Centre and our first takers on the education sessions – the Albion. 
We need your help.
Many of our original executive are graduating and/or leaving town this year.  This is why we are reaching out to the community to ask for volunteers to serve on the executive committee. We are looking for people who are passionately committed to ending sexual harassment and violence in Guelph. Our projected launch date is the fall of 2013. If you are interested, please join us for our introductory meeting on May 6, 2013 in an accessible space on the University of Guelph campus.


May 6, 2013

5:00-6:30 PM

MacKinnon 227

University of Guelph

(Wheelchair Accessible Space)

Patriarchy and Wages

A friend of mine sent me a rather hateful article from CBS News that was in essence an apologist for the patriarchy trying to obfuscate the reality of the situation.  My friend was just asking for my opinion on it (didn’t support the ideas – just wanted my thoughts).  So… here are my thoughts.  I’ve put this together in about 5 minutes, so forgive any glibness or lack of depth.
There are a number of points to address here, so I’ll just run through them one by one.
Men are far more likely to choose careers that are more dangerous,
Chicken and egg problem – those careers are gendered masculine so women don’t choose them & because women don’t choose them, they are gendered masculine.  When women choose a career, the gender of that career changes, which historically leads to lower wages.  In Russia, for instance, following the Revolution, women entered the medical profession in droves, leading to medicine becoming feminized as a career path.  To this day in Russia, doctors make less than comparably educated professionals, due to the process known as “feminization” of the career.  It happened in North America with teaching in the late 1800s.  Each career has a culture and that culture can force certain groups out, women, racial minorities, whomever. The fact that the careers are more dangerous really has little to do with the matter.
Men are far more likely to work in higher-paying fields and occupations (by choice).
See above.
Men are far more likely to take work in uncomfortable, isolated, and undesirable locations
Yeah, and if you were the target in a culture that repeatedly says that if you go out late at night then you will be raped, would you want to work in those jobs?  If you were a boss, would you hire someone to take these jobs, when you too have been told that women are by nature victims?  Wouldn’t you think that would be an instant lawsuit?  Hence women who may want these jobs self select out on the one hand and are selected out on the other by potential employers, all because of the patriarchal construction of femininity-qua-victimhood.
Men work longer hours than women do.
Simply not true.  Studies have repeatedly shown that women tend to work longer hours than men.  This work is compounded when domestic unpaid labour is factored in.  In fact, that is one thing that this list really doesn’t seem to take into account – unpaid domestic labour is still labour and thus still counts as work.
Further, this, like many of the points on this rather hateful list, actually reinforces patriarchal norms as natural.  The playing field is not even between women and men and the list is trying to say it is.
Men are more likely to take jobs that require work on weekends and evenings
Again, this has more to do with traditional gender categories.  Our culture baulks at the idea of a mother leaving her children to work on the weekends, but has no problem with fathers working long hours to “bring home the bacon.”  With years of programming telling you (and your boss) that it is ok to work late hours, are you likely to say no to OT?  No, you become a hero provider.  On the other hand, what does the culture say about a woman who does the same at the expense of her family?  She’s a bad mother.
Even within the same career category, men are more likely to pursue high-stress and higher-paid areas of specialization.
The stress comes from the masculinization of the discipline and the pay, likewise.  See above.
This one is interesting if only because the study points out that this is a very small sample group and that you CANNOT extrapolate this across all women.  It really only applies to young women in certain areas of the US and even there, there are localized reasons as to why it is the case.  Mostly, education.  Women are more likely to pursue higher education than men, which is one of the reasons why education itself is becoming feminized.  Further, the fact that these women have never had a child is itself interesting since it has been shown time after blessed time that as soon as a woman has a child, her earning potential stagnates.
Anyhow, that’s my two cents.  I’ve not had time to put the studies together that refute this, but I’m sure that I could if you really want me to.

Raise the Bar – Coming Out

Last night was Guelph’s Take Back the Night march, which I was happily involved in.  It was a wonderful experience.  The energy of the crowd, the positive vibes all around, the support from the streets – it was all a delight!  What I want to really mention though is that Raise the Bar was officially announced last night.  Hooray!

Before that – a side note.  The performance poet Truth Is spoke and delivered some of the most compelling, brilliant poetry I have heard in a long time.  I first heard Truth Is at the Angela Davis talk at the University of Guelph last year and my goodness, she was phenomenal!  I occasionally teach poetry and one thing that I have found very useful in terms of teaching poetry is showing how it is a living tradition.  People get bogged down in Donne, Whitman, Shakespeare.  When I brought to them living performance poets who speak to the experience of today – Katie Makkai, dbi young, and others – suddenly the students saw that they could be a part of this world of words.  I really have to learn more about Truth Is.

Anyhow, right, back to the Raise the Bar campaign!

Last night, Cindy McMann spoke and officially outed our little group.  We are working to end the culture of sexual predation, harassment, and violence around us by starting in our back yards – downtown Guelph.  The key to this is bystander intervention.  We have to make sure that everyone recognizes that sexual violence of any sort is unacceptable.

So we are launching a two part campaign – education in downtown establishments and a public education blitz.  Working with our community partners, we are putting together both wings of the campaign and we hope that we will have your support.

We haven’t quite started the website up yet and we are still building content for the public education blitz, but we are now official.  We’re out there.  We’re Raise the Bar… and you can help.

If you are interested in getting involved with Raise the Bar or you want to learn more about our initiative, please let me know.  andrew.bretz AT gmail DOT com

The Limits of Humour

I’m teaching a course on Comic Drama in the Winter Semester at WLU and so I’ve been thinking in the past few days about the nature of humour/comedy/genre/farce/absurdity, etc.  Heck, I still don’t even have a reading list together, so if anyone has any suggestions, I would be more than happy to entertain them.  Just drop me a line.

Begging for help with my course is not why I am writing this, however.  

One of the ideas that I had regarding course delivery was to start off each class with a relevant joke or reading or something.  Whether it be a knock knock joke when we are talking about structure, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” when we are talking about dated humour, or describing a situation like what I will get into below… I want to start off each class with an example, then move into the theory and the plays.

Yesterday, as I was basking in the post defense hangover, I watched as twitter blew up with discussion of a few interrelated stories.

  1. Daniel Tosh, comedian, told a crowd of people in regards to a female heckler: “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”  The defense offered for publicly suborning assault?  There are “awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them.”
  2. Anita Sarkeesian, feminist writer and cultural critic who started a kickstarter campaign to get funding to study gender in video game culture had a video game made about her where the whole point is to beat her to a bloody pulp.  The defense offered for the hate-speech game?  It’s just a game…

There’s no real point in my going on at length about how and why these particular cases are seriously problematic.  Indeed, Tosh looks like he is liable to lose support from his network and the twitter account of the man who created the Sarkeesian game has been mysteriously suspended.  I join the condemnation of these acts, of course, but I’m wondering how I am going to insert them into my class on comic drama.

Tosh’s stance on “awful things in the world” is a position that I have heard time and again in recent months, especially following the whole debacle a few months back.  Individuals claim that they can make jokes about anything they want, without consequences, because they have the seemingly God-given right to make those jokes.  The smarter ones cite George Carlin for some kind of evidence that white, privileged men can make jokes about violence, race, money and it can be funny.

Thing is, they are stepping on a few questions of privilege and comedy without thinking about what they are doing.  Are there jokes that are funny?  Certainly.  Humour seems to be largely a social construct, but it does seem to be the case that there is some kind of a concept of humour across cultures.  This seems to be a part of the general human condition.  There are also jokes that are simply not funny.  Either they are not told well, they are offensive, or they lack structure (or something else), but there are certainly jokes that are not funny.  Are there jokes that are so offensive that they are inherently unfunny?  Here we step away from a philosophy of aesthetics and into ethics.

  1. A joke can be immoral itself, or 
  2. It can be told for immoral reasons.  

That is, a joke suborning rape (an immoral joke) can be told by someone as an illustration of rape culture without the expectation that anyone will find it funny (say, in a classroom), or that same joke can be told for immoral reasons (for example, to actually dehumanize and degrade another person).  There are very few jokes that are structurally immoral, I think.  Think, for instance, of what the philosopher Noel Carroll calls “moron jokes,” which are jokes that defame or degrade a social out-group.  In Canada, Newfie jokes are the prime example of these.  I’m not sure if these are structurally immoral in the sense that you can swap out the “moron” group of the joke.  They are unpleasant, they are derisive, but they rely on an interchangability and basic humanity of the other in order for the joke to make any sense.

This is the basis of Plautine humour.  Plautus, the Roman playwright, knew that though we claim we want to see edifying and cultural drama, we really go in large numbers to see people falling on their arse.  More people would come to see Homer Simpson give a public talk than Professor Frink, both in the fictional Springfield and in the real world.  Making fun of other people is not structurally immoral in the sense that, if done right, you recognize that you are liable to be the person who is the butt of the joke next.  It puts all humanity in the same place: a buffoon incapable of doing the simplest of tasks.

There are jokes that are structurally  immoral, however, and the distinction is when there is no possibility of switching out the roles.  That is, as I just spent the past five years of my life talking about, one of the primary discoveries of feminism of the past 50 years was that the way that we gender in society is through certain narratives where men take on certain roles and women take on other roles.  Men are the active agents of narrative, women are the passive acted upon objects.  One of the logical conclusions of this narrative structuring of gender is that rape in particular works to gender us.  Men rape.  Women are raped.

Now we have recognized that this is how gender works, we can undermine the binary and men who have been raped by their partners or by strangers can come forward and give a name to their experience.  The work can happen now, but it was only possible through the recognition that the structure of rape is such that it feminizes the person who is being raped.  It forces that person into a certain gender position of victimhood and dehumanization.

So to come back to the joke.  If the narrative rape is structurally about the gendering of bodies, such that femininity is in part defined by the ability to be raped,then rape jokes can’t swap out individual groups and thereby make a claim to general human fallibility.  It merely reinscribes privilege.

The counter argument that I find particularly fascinating about the Tosh case is, IF he really wanted to make a joke about rape in order to test the boundaries of what can and cannot be joked about – then why didn’t he talk about being raped himself?

Why didn’t he say: “Wouldn’t it be funny if [I] got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped [me]…”?
There’s another possible counter to what I have just said and that is encapsulated in the video by Clever Pie and Isabel Fay “Thank You Hater!”
There, the tone is everything.  There we have moved into sarcasm, which upsets the structure of the rape joke altogether.  Part of what it is to be rape (an essential quality of it) is that it is an enforced dehumanization and an enforced feminization.  You can’t want it.  You can’t desire it.  Once you do, it ceases to be rape.  Indeed, to seek out objectification is a very complex position vis-a-vis one’s sexual identity (think BDSM).  In Fay’s song, she expresses regret that she won’t be raped in the eyes by the internet troll, and she plays with the gendering that comes with rape by presenting herself in a mid-1950s costume and song.  This is… to put it mildly, a bit more “meta” than what Tosh did.  Further, though it is related to Plautine humour where the interchangability of the object of derision is the point, this complicates that position by insisting on the humanity of the people who are putting themselves out there online.  The humour offered by the trolls is dehumanizing, while this song insists of feminine agency through irony.  (Can you tell I like this video?)

Structurally, rape jokes told by privileged white men against women… not funny.  Immoral.  Predicated on dehumanization and violence.

What about the other point noted above?  A joke can be told for an immoral reason?  In the case of Tosh, I wasn’t there and I don’t really want to get into specifics of supposed “context.”  Similarly, in the case of the Sarkeesian video game, I haven’t played it and I don’t want to.  So, does that undercut my position?  Not at all.

Even if we grant that the video game and what Tosh said are jokes or analogous to jokes, then you merely have to look to the larger cultural position to recognize that the work the jokes are doing is to dehumanize and assault a particular group.  If we would be (rightfully) upset at a joke that posited that it was funny to lynch a black man, why would we possibly accept that an analogous joke about a woman was somehow ok?

The cultural argument is, in some ways, the more obvious one to me, though undoubtedly there will be people out there who don’t see it.  North American culture is a culture/is a network of cultures that is/are biased against women acting as fully independent human beings.

So, I doubt anyone has read this far, but at least I got some of my thoughts down on “paper.”  Now, if anyone has any comments, please let me know.  Also, if you have any suggestions for my Comic Drama course, please drop me a line.

The links below are just a smattering of what I have found in the past few moments.  There’s a lot out there for you to learn more about this, if you are so inclined.
Tosh Links

Sarkeesian Links

Raise the Bar: Bars Should Be Fun

I’m going to take this opportunity to finally talk about an initiative that I have become a part of that is setting out to create spaces in the bars of downtown Guelph where sexual harassment and assault will hopefully become a thing of the past.  We are setting out to Raise the Bar, because Bars Should Be Fun (hence the catchy name).

A number of things have conspired in the past few months to encourage me to move into the field of activism.  For any of you who read this blog, you will know about the rape chants on Guelph transit that were repeated (and added to) in Facebook.  There have been other incidents as well.  The more I have publicly spoken out about the issue, the more people have come forward to talk to me about what has happened to them and the people that they love.

We are still in the formative phases right now of the project, but already we have begun partnering with a number of local groups and organizations.  We have had unprecedented support from all sides.  We are talking with the local hospital, the Women in Crisis Centre, the University of Guelph, the Central Student’s Association, The Crown Attorney’s Office and many others to make this happen.

I’m not going to go too far into the project details at the moment, as those are going to be worked out in the next little bit.  The goal, however, is to reduce the incidence of sexual violence and harassment in the downtown of Guelph.  If you support this goal, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me – we can certainly use all the help we can get.

As a part of the campaign, we have created an initial Facebook page.  You might want to check it out.  Share your stories and let’s help make Guelph a place where everyone can have fun!